Student Spotlight: Sam McVeety (Master of Jurisprudence)

Technology touches everyone’s lives. Sam McVeety, M.J., however, is worried it doesn’t do so in an equitable way. As a data analyst at Google, McVeety understood the importance of emerging technology but grew concerned it was also causing unintended harm to groups of people. 

McVeety took Critical Race Theory at UW Law, as a non-matriculating student, to see how the law could combat these inequities and “absolutely loved it.” Soon after, he applied and was admitted to the Master of Jurisprudence program. Since then, subsequent classes have broadened his legal knowledge and one day he hopes to make technology “a force for good for everyone, not just a small number of people.” 

Follow along as he explores his passion for law and technology and how he hopes to make an impact on the world.

Read the Transcript

My name is Sam McVeety and I'm in the Master of Jurisprudence program here at UW Law. I grew up in Minnesota, and I went to school out east at MIT. And then moved out to Seattle for a job and have been here ever since.

So, I work at Google in the field of data analytics. And so, this is sort of taking like a lot of different, sort of emerging trends, you could have a transit agency looking at who is tapping in at which stations to figure out where do we need to put in new transit routes? And so, it's sort of this cross-cutting field of more and more data, but how do we analyze that? And then I think importantly, how do we do that in an ethical and equitable way?

I got more and more interested in law after looking at how sort of both computers and law are ways of distributing power and life chances. And so, I sort of dipped my toe in by taking Professor Cházaro’s Critical Race Theory class as a non-matriculating student, and just absolutely loved it. And so, we were looking at specific recommendations to, I think, the Seattle City Council around the solidarity budget and other efforts to say, how can we spend money in a way that is actually creating the future that we want to see? And so, we had small groups to look at that. And in this case, we were looking at decriminalizing certain misdemeanor offenses that were done in the name of meeting basic needs.

I would really like for the program to inform how I can be of service in making technology a force for good for everyone, not for a small number of people.

Through Professor Covington’s Law and Technology Clinic, where we actually worked with a number of folks across Washington state to collaborate on a privacy bill that went before the Washington state legislature, it was a really good case study of looking at how do we take emerging trends and technology and how do we collaborate across the different people this might affect and figure out how to minimize harms while retaining some of the potential benefits of that technology?

There are some really exciting developments that are happening in the field of responsible AI and the field of how to sort of effectively provide privacy guarantees. And so, I'm really looking to be a voice of advocacy on the inside for that and potentially collaborate with folks who are looking to provide safeguards that are far reaching.